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Arnold Opens CeBIT, Promises 'I'll Be Back'

Attendance slides at top IT trade show as economic woes are the main talking point for organizers, attendees and special guest Arnold Schwarzenneger.

CeBIT, the biggest IT trade show in the world, has the State of California filling the role of government partner -- the first time a non-sovereign state has had that honor.

"Losers whine but winners move forward in a strong and powerful way, and I know that everyone who is here at the CeBIT is a winner," Schwarzenegger said during his keynote at the Hannover Congress Centrum, where Merkel and other officials and dignitaries cut the red ribbon to kick off the trade show.

"This year, we gather in challenging times," began Schwarzenegger, who went on to regale a friendly crowd with tales of his body-building and movie-making exploits. The actor-turned-governor quickly brushed aside talk about the recession, however, telling CeBIT attendees, "You are all pioneers in pushing the infinite limits of human potential."

He also praised Merkel, who faces a general election in six months and a capsizing economy, as "the most powerful woman in the world" before turning over the stage to the German chancellor. "Hasta la vista, baby," Schwarzenegger said as he exited, promising "I'll be back" if CeBIT organizers invite him to attend the show again.

Merkel parried Schwarzenegger's ribbing about a Barbie doll likeness of the chancellor being sold in Germany by questioning California's insistence on a two-thirds majority to pass its state budget, a hurdle the governor overcame recently.

Merkel was less effusive in her talk than Schwarzenegger, but she also opined that the way out of the economic downturn was through the innovation and entrepreneurship of CeBIT attendees.

Also speaking at Monday's opening ceremony was former Intel CEO and current Chairman Craig Barrett, who is set to retire from the Intel board in May. Barrett stressed the rise of technology use in the developing world, calling the recession "a small part of the change taking place in the world."

"Your country of origin is no longer your destiny," he said, claiming that by 2012, formerly emerging countries would have three times the amount of Internet and cell phone users as the United States, Western Europe and Japan.

As he did in his keynote at the Intel Developer Forum last August, Barrett bemoaned the lack of science education and R&D investment in Europe and the U.S., saying countries like Germany would need to reassess their priorities if they wished to remain competitive in the global economy.

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